Reports | September 28, 2009 21:44

Carlsen starts with a win in Nanjing

CarlsenIn the first round of the Pearl Spring tournament in Nanjing, Magnus Carlsen defeated Peter Leko to grab an early lead. With the white pieces Veselin Topalov couldn't break through Dmitry Jakovenko's stubborn defence while Wang Yue and Teimour Radjabov also split the point, in a quiet King's Indian.

Photo: Gujuan Tzu

Now officially part of the Grand Slam from the start, the 2nd Pearl Spring tournament takes place September 27th - October 9th in Pukou, Nanjing, China. Again it's a six-player, double round-robin with this year Veselin Topalov (2813), Magnus Carlsen (2772), Peter Leko (2762), Teimour Radjabov (2757), Dmitry Jakovenko (2742) and Wang Yue (2736) playing for a € 250,000 prize fund.

Although the official website mentions an extremely fast rate of play of 90 minutes + 30 seconds increment for the whole game, from the live transmission of the first round we gather it's in fact 2 hours for 40 moves plus 1 hour to complete the game. Update: It's 40 moves in 90 minutes plus 1 hour, no increment. Phew.

The tournament is organized by the Municipal People’s Government of Nanjing and the Chess & Cards Administration Center of General Administration of Sport of China. Like last year, it is held at the Mingfa Pearl Spring Hotel in the Pukou District of Nanjing, China. The city of Nanjing (literally meaning “southern capital”) is the capital of China’s Jiangsu Province, located 300 km northwest of Shanghai.

Like last year the players are wearing special Chinese clothes - this time colourful, shiny shirts - and for his first-round game against Leko, Carlsen decided to try something new on the board as well: the Scotch. The young Norwegian had played this opening only a few times before in his career, so perhaps it's a first sign of the cooperation between him and Garry Kasparov, who popularized this opening in the 90s.


In the 5...Bc5 line Carlsen went for the well-known pawn sacrifice that starts with 10.f4, and perhaps caught by surprise, Leko didn't follow the game Morozevich-Kramnik, Dortmund 2001, where the Russian had quickly drawn with the move 13...Bh3. The Hungarian soon found himself under considerable pressure, as he couldn't generate any counterplay on the kingside while his queenside was being robbed. The desperate-looking 29...Nxh4 was in fact practically Black's best chance, but Carlsen defended flawlessly. An impressive start, enough for clear first after one round.


It's good to see the world's number one playing again, for the first time since the MTel Masters in May this year. Topalov went for 8.a4 in the Catalan main line and got some space advantage, but the Bulgarian could never hope for more than a draw against an ultra-solid Jakovenko today. Wang Yue started cautiously in his first-round game against Radjabov. The two have met each other quite often in recent years, and their personal theoretical battle in the King's Indian continues to be quite interesting, except for today. The Chinese first exchanged queens, and then traded the e-pawns as well. OK, Radjabov needed to find one accurate defensive idea, but when he did, a drawn rook (and later pawn) ending was reached by force.


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2nd Pearl Spring (Nanjing) 2009 | Round 1 Standings

2nd Pearl Spring (Nanjing) 2009

2nd Pearl Spring (Nanjing) 2009 | Schedule & results

2nd Pearl Spring (Nanjing) 2009


Alongside the Pearl Spring the 2nd FIDE Women Grand Prix is held at the same venue. Like the men's event, the Women GP is a series of 6 tournaments over two years. The winner of each tournament receives 6,500 euros out of a prize fund of 40,000 Euros; the overall winner of the series will win a further 15,000 Euros.

The first Women Grand Prix was held March 5-20, 2009 in Istanbul, Turkey and was won by Humpy Koneru from India. In Nanjing, GM Zhao Xue (2544), Wenjun Ju (2443), GM Nana Dzagnidze, (2536), GM Marie Sebag (2531), GM Xu Yuhua (2485), GM Zhu Chen (2473), IM Lilit Mrktchian (2467), WGM Shen Yang (2453), WGM Munguntuul Batkhuyag (2412), WGM Baira Kovanova (2406), IM Martha Fierro (2394) and WIM Betul Yildiz (2217) play.

Women GP


Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


me's picture

Was it really 2 hours for first 40 moves? I'm almost certain that they started playing at 9.00 and by 12.00 both players were down to the last seconds. So it must have been 90 minutes for first 40 moves.

Either way, it wasn't what the FAQ's section at the official site says. I would also like to know about tie-breaks criteria between tied players.

me's picture

Heh, look at the dates! That are LAST YEARS questions and answers! :)

Only the question at the top is for this years edition.

Ebomuche Cardinal's picture

Topalov... It's good to see him play after a period of latency! I sure would like to see a tourney like Topalov, Kasparov, Anand, Kramnik, Aronian, Morozevich, Carlsen, Ivanchuk, tearing eachother to pieces on the board.

An ace for Carlsen 4 his brilliant game! against Leko.

Peter Doggers's picture

OK, checked it with someone in Nanjing: it's indeed 40 moves in 90 minutes plus 1 hour, no increment.

ceann's picture

What a depressing line up of players (except for the cheat and the runt) How Lego ever gets invites to top tourneys I'll never know. And the rest are journeymen bores. For once I'm actually up for the runt in an event....

Mauricio Valdes's picture

A fine win by Carlsen. I guess his trainning woth Kasparov is already paying off... or could it be that Carlsen´s flashy outfit distracted Leko?

Arne Moll's picture

@ceann. You're totally biased. Just look at the entertaining chess Leko plays, even in this game he loses. Have you stopped watching him 10 years ago or something? And since when is Radjabov a depressing player? Perhaps it's YOU who is depressed by chess and you're reflecting it on all other top players?

unknown's picture

It would be fine to see Aronian among the participants...

Inventorist's picture

Next round's game Carlsen-Topalov will be fireworks, to say the least...I am eagerly in anticipation for the game!

I predict a solid but hard-fought draw so that Carlsen retains the lead, although I hope Carlsen wins so that he gets closer to his desired no.1 world ranking.

What score does Carlsen need to achieve at this tournament to overtake Anand's current rating? 7/10?

Jan's picture

Not many tourneys where the real top guys play each other. Topalov, Kramnik, Anand. Like the 100m where Gay and Bolt avoid each other, unless there is no other way (Olympics).

Thomas's picture

Aronian would fit well in the field, also because he likes colorful shirts :) .

@Ebomuche: The upcoming Tal Memorial has 6/8 from your list, only the first two names are missing. Then we can also 'handle' Leko's presence - but I fully agree with Arne Moll's post. As far as ceann is concerned, I wonder which players would not provoke negative statements (names as Kasparov or Bobby Fischer don't count ...)

Michael Schwerteck's picture

Have a look at the reports on the official site, they're hilarious.

"Carlson chose the very intense abandon-pawn variation in the start of the Scotland system, and after Leko had lengthy consideration, she ate pawn to accept the challenge. (...) To No. 23 round, facing the dilemma situation, Leko gave up the rear wing as the cost, and made counterattack in the chariot wing. (...) To 44th round, Leko voted defeat."

nick burrows's picture

“Carlson chose the very intense abandon-pawn variation in the start of the Scotland system, and after Leko had lengthy consideration, she ate pawn to accept the challenge. (…) To No. 23 round, facing the dilemma situation, Leko gave up the rear wing as the cost, and made counterattack in the chariot wing. (…) To 44th round, Leko voted defeat.”

Perfectly described! I wish all chess writing was thus..

gavril's picture

I totally agree with ceann.look at radjabov-yue game,they've exchanged all the pieces with the first occasion and drew.i can't find anything exciting in that.where is Morozevich?with all the respect I want to see some players with balls cause i don't contest their chess skills,and I'm tired to wait for their capricious mood.

Meppie's picture

He didn't beat me as well. And I think he never will!

Michael Schwerteck's picture

One could add that this was Carlsen's first win against Leko in classical chess. Now Gelfand is the only top 10 player whom Magnus could not yet beat with normal time control.

sergio's picture

Meppie are you a top-10 player? And no top 10 of your local chessclub doesn't count.

Nice game of Carlsen

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